Albinos and all their stuff

What’s the most common question I get asked as a writer?

How do you remember all this stuff?

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It’s usually in awe at the wall of folders I have from my works in progress. I keep a folder on my desktop of ideas for novels, characters, scenes… but when I get something more developed, a rough plot, a cast, a more definite outline… along with pages of writing, either the beginning, or a few key scenes – it gets a ring binder and a place on my shelf. I keep all my notes in there, I design a cover and spine. That way my idea feels real. And when it comes time to do some writing on said project, I can pull out the folder and everything I need is contained within.

And when you have over 40 titles on the shelf you find people staring at them wide eyes and asking you – how do you remember all this stuff? How do you keep the characters straight in your head and not mix the books up?

My answer is always very simple. I remember all my friends, and family. I know where they live, I have an idea of their wants and desires, what they look like, their little personality traits and favourite sayings… so it’s just like that. The books and characters within are the same as friends and family. In fact, I probably spend more time with my fictional family, because they live in my head more prominently, I go on adventures with them. We have conversations. They might change or grow up even before I put words on paper.

The human brain has such a capacity for learning and remembering, why does it always seem like a shocking feat to remember the books I’m writing – or even the books I’ve read?

I guess for someone who is not in the habit of writing books, or reading a lot for that matter, easy recollection of fictional facts seems almost like science fiction. Like you are some sort of genius. So when they get over the realisation that I’m not hiding away in a dark room with over a dozen cats writing erotic fiction for my own fancy, and actually see the scope and effort I put in, something grinds and crunches in their heads that I must be the re-incarnation of Albert Einstein himself.

How does their brain take the leap from some mousey, unattractive shut-in with sexually deviant tendencies to a crazy haired genius after entering my office? Surely there is a somewhat more modest middle ground?

Albinoes and their stuff Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI think writers are much like albino animals – rarely seen in the wild, perceived as odd, weird, or magical, but on the whole, (apart from the propensity to get sunburn) no different to the regular coloured masses. I’m beginning to learn that the general public’s assumptions of what a writer is, is so vastly different to what I actually do. It’s up there with astronaut or vascular surgeon – it sounds impressive but we don’t know the ins and outs of what they actually do every day. (Not that being a writer is as important as an astronaut or a vascular surgeon – just that they are job titles not many know details about) I’m frequently launching into the mechanics of writhing and the publishing world for friends and family. Their notions that I sit at my computer for a few weeks, churn out a novel and then send if off into the ether to be transformed into a book on the shelves of stores is completely naive.

I spend a lot of time writing, and with the characters, worlds, and story acrs that I write; so why wouldn’t I know them by heart? If I was in any other occupation, wouldn’t I know all the intricacies of that job too?

So, I guess I have to embrace being some albino animal as well – though it’s not too much of a stretch having pale skin, red hair and freckles – where people come and stare in stack-jawed intensity when they discover what it is I really do on occasion. But on the most part, I just get on with it.

Though I always get surprised at some of the frequently asked questions – I mean, if they thought about it, even only fleetingly, the answer is so obvious I may as well slap them in the face with a rubber chicken…

In fact, I may do just that.

Albinoes and their stuff Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

 

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Getting That Second Draft Done

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So you’ve accomplished that word-vomit of a first draft and it’s time to whip your manuscript into shape – here are some tips I use to get my second draft reader-ready.

Get amnesia. Put down your work and walk away. Leave enough time for you to forget about the finer points so you can re-read with fresh eyes.

Create a timeline.  Literally. If the book starts on a Monday and covers three months make sure you account for the passing of time sequentially. Weekdays, nights, weekends. It will help keep you accountable and aid in continuity.

Track continuity.  It has to make sense. Not only the plot points, but little facts you mention, names, places, character traits – track everything so it follows a logical pattern. Readers need to make sense of the universe you are creating.

Look at each character.   Are they interesting? Are they relevant to the story? Do they have their own arc? What is their reason for being a part of your novel?

Micro-edit.   Read each paragraph and seriously ask yourself ‘is this important? Is it relevant to the story?’ If the answer in ‘no’ on either count, cut it and move it to an outtakes folder. (Keep all your writing – it may be useful later in another project or sequel.)

Identify key points you want to shine in the tone of your narrative.   Is it meant to be funny, scary, angsty? Decide on these elements and make sure each chapter drags this emotion from you.

Read your dialogue aloud.   If you sound silly saying it – imagine what your characters will look like to a new reader.

In the first few chapters did you introduce all of the characters in the novel? Did you state the main characters quest, dreams, and desires? Did you put an obstacle in their way to achieve it? Did you paint a picture of who the characters are? The landscape they are in (world building)? All these things set the scene for the story/plot and is essential for a reader to get invested in your novel.

In the middle of the book have you raised the level of difficulty/challenges your protagonist faces?

At the end of the book have you pulled out all the stops for your protagonist? Have they grown and been shaped by their experiences? Did they achieve what they had set out to at the beginning of the novel?

If there were any parts you had to re-read. Re-write them.  You need the writing style to flow. If your interest wavered at any point, you may consider cutting that part or re-writing it with more punch. If your re-reading a sentence to make sense of it, that’s a waving red flag for your attention.

Mostly its mechanics and big picture stuff – you can worry about spelling and grammar later in a line-edit when you fine tune everything. Get your story engaging and paced effectively. Have it making sense and elements of unpredictability.

Although having said all that, everyone has a different style of writing, different concepts and their own methods of crafting words on paper. But the points above have helped me get from that initial frenzy of typing out chapter after chapter, to a point when I feel comfortable-ish to let someone read it to give me feedback. Because, by then, most of the time if I need to make changes, they are only small and nothing that results in major re-writes.

And as always – happy writing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.